The Theatreguide.London Review
A Kind Of People
Royal Court Theatre Winter 2019-2020
Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti
has written, and Michael Buffong directed a very Royal-Court-kind of
play, a solidly realistic domestic drama that examines and
illuminates life in fresh and convincing ways.
It is a play about
racism, but also about how very many people, black and white, only
cope with life through a sort of elective denial, and how very
fragile that coping mechanism is.
A black Englishman experiences a bit of racism, the particularly insidious kind in which the racists aren't even consciously aware of the assumptions and attitudes that generate their actions.
It is not the man's
first encounter with
racism nor, sadly, will it be his last. But something about this one
makes it the camel's straw, the one that sets loose the accumulated
anguish of all those that came before and makes him unable to pretend
they don't matter or that things will get better.
Robbed of that
protective denial, he is set emotionally adrift, not sure how to deal
with his anger and pain.
This dissection of the
effect of a lifetime
of racism will be fresh to many, and thoroughly convincing. And then
the playwright's insight goes even further. The man's loss of the
ability to repress his pain proves infectious.
A woman comes face to
face with her own prejudices, which a moment earlier she would have
denied having. A man is moved to blurt out a secret he has kept
repressed for years.
A mother buckles under the unsuspected pressure of worrying about her children's future. A woman acknowledges that she has always felt superior to even her closest friends.
It is not
solely the victims of racism who get by only by repressing and
denying their pain, and the loss of that defence can be even more
soul-shaking than the pain itself.
The play and production
put a disparate group of people in the same room and then watch them
crack under their own individual and personal pressures one by one.
Richie Campbell is particularly moving as the man broken by just one insult too many, and Claire-Louise Cordwell as his white wife who thought their special bond made them immune from all life's problems.
Judging by the way different moments in the play generated gasps of recognition from different corners of the audience, it is not only people of colour who will see something of themselves in this unspectacular but deeply affecting drama.
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